By: Dave Madden
The Squid's Ear
The trio of Ute Wassermann (voice, birdcalls), Richard Scott (modular synthesizer) and Emilio Gordoa (vibraphone, percussion), Parak.eets, adopts the seemingly-chaotic world of avian vocals. Contrary to the more solemn interpretation and reverence of bird call in Messiaen works, Natura Venomous is mischief. It is adventures in the early morning when birds are at their most chatty, gossipy, day planning and scolding. It is what happens when they think no one is watching or listening.*
Wassermann’s virtuosic vocal gamut meshes with Scott’s springy blips and fizzes, while Gordoa skips around the vibraphone like an escalated, old-timey Looney Tunes foley moment on opener “Aldefa.”** Staccato is the theme, with all three interjecting short gestures like a twitchy debate group; or members grab onto and pull on a sound from someone else to extend it like taffy. This isn’t a flippant, clever journalistic, lazy observation: Jumping into this disc is like being blind-folded, kicked into a pit and left to figure out what the hell is happening. And you’re smiling.
The mix of (wo)man and machine throughout is fascinating. Wassermann’s rapid toss of snarls, squeaks, growls, undead gasps, last breaths, operatic outbursts, stunted gurgles etc. from her bag of tricks matches the dying electronic sloshes and percussive smacks, bell strokes, mutes and rolls in a unique synergy.
At times, the playfulness is eschewed for a more sinister, predatory mood. For example, “Hippomane,” wallows in tense synthetic drones, scratched cymbals and vocal death knell. “Atropa” is the body under your bed that flails as you anxiously wait for the drugs to leave your system.
My childhood experiences with domesticated parakeets lead me to believe that they work within the spectrum of lobotomized to asshole (we always had at least one around). And there were plenty of simple souls various family members fostered that just crapped and ate and stayed still except for the occasional head cock. Parak.eets, however, aren’t sitting around waiting for food pellets: They are wild animals flying at your face, flitting at you from behind doors, tearing things up in the attic, dive-bombing from caves, scrapping and busting through windshields.
* The first night my new-born was home from the hospital, her mom and I struggled to get her to sleep. Near 5:00 am, my daughter finally passed out. Within a few minutes, all birds in the forest behind my house woke up with alarming volume, causing my daughter to wake up and cry. I did go outside and hiss, “F*** you, birds!” This experience is my tragedy plus time equals comedy influence on this review.
** Most of the works here are named after poisonous plants, hence “Venomous.”